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I came a cross a newspaper article from 1859, printed in Fraktur, in which a man had died and the probate court had ordered two buildings to be sold with the consent of his relatives. One was called "Ein Gut im Bezirk Filet ..." Here, Filet is a village in the Raron district of Kanton Wallis, Schweiz. The other is called "Ein Gütchen, auf der Alpe Goppisberg ..."

I would guess that a Gütchen is a little Gut, but I have been Googling for a while now and I am having trouble finding these terms defined. I see that "Landgut" and just "Gut" were old terms for real property, as opposed to personal property. But with the artile "Ein", I'm guessing these terms are more specific.

Can anyone tell me if these terms they really just generic, like "building" and "little building", or is the more connotation involved?

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    The word “Gut” is still in use: dwds.de/wb/Gut I have not specifically heard “Gütchen”, so I cannot say whether it used to have a more specific meaning, but diminutives are a productive feature of the German language. – Carsten S Apr 10 at 22:31
  • It would be interesting to know more about the productivity of the Umlaut in this pattern. My gut feeling is that Umlaut is appropriate for "Germanic looking" words, but less necesssary the less frequent the word is... e.g., Sonnchen sounds actually quite fine to me. – phipsgabler Apr 11 at 8:17
  • To me "Gütchen" sounds very unusual, although formally correct. As the location of the properties is in Switzerland, the unusual form might be the result of a translation from the local Swiss German dialect (as probably spoken by the court) to standard German for the official written decision. As far as I know, in Swiss German dialects diminutives are used more frequently than in standard German. – Bodo Apr 11 at 16:13
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You are right: A Gütchen is a little Gut.

You can build a diminutive from every noun that is not already a diminutive by adding the postfix -chen1. This is a method you can apply really to every noun. It is like building the plural or a case inflection, but not for a grammatical reason, but to modify the meaning of the noun.

In a sci-fi novel you might have a planet from where you can see two suns. One is big and bright and the other one is tiny and hard to see. So you can use the noun »Sonne« for the big sun and »Sonnchen« for it's tiny partner.

The words you get by adding a diminutive suffix are often very rarely used, and therefore they are not listed in dictionaries. Not to find a German word in a German dictionary doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. German has mechanisms to create new words from other words, and our dictionaries would explode if you add all possible creations.


1 In Austrian Standard German also by adding -erl (Krug → Krügerl, Sack → Sackerl, ...). There are many more other other diminutive suffixes in the various German dialects.

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Some regions and dialects suffer from diminutivitis, which would make a giants child become a "Rieschen" making no sense at all, but hey, what can I say? That is what they do.

So a "Gütchen" is not necessarily any actual small estate.
Its more an attempt to cutify it as part of a habit to cutify just about anything.

The Danes refer to their country as "Hygge lille Danmark" which means as much as "Cozy little Danmark" and that is a country. Not some small thingy.

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